Anyone who has to question the viability of using a smartphone instead of a credit card to pay at the register need look no further than Starbucks, a company that has already been allowing customers to do just that for more than a year. And in those past 15 months, it has managed to process 42 million mobile payment transactions. Not bad for a little coffeehouse, right?
The Starbucks customer loyalty program is one of the least (financially) rewarding programs that exist. It takes 45 purchases before you earn your first free drink (then it takes 15 purchases every time thereafter). But for people who visit Starbucks every day, it’s about something else – convenience. The way the program works is that members register a Starbucks gift card to their account, and then fill it up with money. Rather than fumbling around with cash or needing to sort through countless small transactions on a credit card statement, you can just swipe your gift card every time. You can even set it to auto-reload.
That was taken to the next level with the flagship Starbucks app, which puts the same gift card bardcode information on a smartphone screen, allowing users to scan that to pay for their coffee. To be clear, this is a completely different kind of mobile payment technology than what everyone is talking about right now, but it has pioneered the way for being able to pay for a purchase at the register without any cash or cards in your possession. 42 million scans later, perhaps it’s on to something.